Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman says he’ll campaign for governor as a Republican, departing from earlier plans to run as an independent.

The longtime citizen-initiative sponsor, who remains embroiled in a campaign-finance investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office, made the announcement to a small crowd Wednesday evening in Yakima, where he grew up.

Eyman, who is seeking political office for the first time, said he’d heard from many supporters urging him to run as a Republican against Gov. Jay Inslee, the Democrat seeking a third term this year.

“I think it feels right for me,” Eyman said in a speech livestreamed online by KING 5 News. “So today, right now, I want to formally, enthusiastically and proudly announce that I am running for governor as a Republican.”

Eyman added, “The Republican Party is better today than it has ever been,” and attacked Inslee and Democrats for raising taxes and supporting an affirmative-action measure last year that was overturned by voters.

Looming as the campaign begins is a long-running Attorney General’s Office lawsuit that accuses Eyman of running a scheme to enrich himself from initiative campaigns through kickbacks and contributions laundered through a web of political committees. He has been found in contempt of court and racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for refusing to disclose information about his finances.


In a statement, state GOP Chairman Caleb Heimlich said, “Clearly, the Republican Party is the place to be in Washington state.”

He called Inslee vulnerable, pointing to recent polls, and cited “liberal leadership” with “no solutions” for homelessness and a drug epidemic.

“I look forward to a vigorous primary debate over the next six months, and Republicans will unite behind the winner of the primary to defeat Jay Inslee,” Heimlich said.

Several other, lesser-known Republicans also are running for governor, including: Joshua Freed, the former Bothell mayor and real-estate developer; state Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn; Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, Ferry County; and Anton Sakharov, a Maple Valley program manager.

That roster could shift before the May 15 filing deadline to get on the ballot.

The state’s top-two primary Aug. 4 will determine which candidate faces Inslee on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.